From the grapevine comes word that the women’s club of Floyd has voted overwhelmingly to invite racist revisionist "author" Gary Walker back to next year’s arts and crafts fair.

Floyd attorney Dale Proffit apparently left the ladies quaking in their seats with dire warnings of legal action not only from Walker but also from the hoard of Confederate sympathizers that he said would rise up in righteous indignation and haul them into court (a threat that I think is as flawed as Walker’s so-called "historical research").

The vote has fractured the membership of the club with some choosing to quit over the action and others taking self-imposed leaves of absence. It also tempts professional rabble-rousers like me to consider turning the matter into a personal crusade. I’d like to think the women’s club did not wish to see their annual arts and crafts fair turn into a bully pulpit for racism but that is exactly what they have done with their vote.

I’m not surprised Profitt was able to scare the bejesus out of the ladies although Dale is not one I would call on for advice on Constitutional law. His legal practice is mostly real estate transactions and helping locals draw up wills. Constitutional lawyers and professors say the First Amendment has nothing to do with the whether or not the ladies club can or should allow an illiterate racist author at an event supposedly dedicated to arts and crafts.  As a private organization they are free to accept or ban anyone they wish.

The women’s club had a chance to show that Floyd is not a home for Southern-fried racism but, instead, they made a bad decision based on fear, ignorance and questionable advice. It is a decision they will have to live with.

No matter how loudly they claim their decision is not racist, it is — from my view as both a native-born Southerner and a Floyd Countian — at the very least a passive acceptance of racism in our midst.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Rio,
    If you want to set moral standards and address a need that hurts the community why not be vocal on the murder that is occurring with each abortion. I bet you won’t come out in opposition to the murder of innocent lives will you? Oops that is a left wing right to do and forbidden to be spoken against by “Moral” people. Which way is it about morality? When it suits you?
    Slavery is wrong, but if you study it you will find it went on in the north longer than it did in the south. How much was NY city built with slaves? The news recently spoke of finding graves of slaves there when they were tearing up buildings. Where was every one then wanting to preserve that cemetery?

  2. Divert attention away from the original topic by trying to drag in another issue that has nothing to do with the current debate and then attempt to confuse the issue with the old “well others did it too” defense.

    Abortion has nothing to do with the issue at hand and just because slavery existed in the North as well as the South does not excuse either the deplorable use of human beings as chattel nor does it excuse the revisionist ravings of Mr. Walker.

    The issue here is whether or not we should welcome a racist into an event that is supposed to represent the artistic abilities and craftsmanship of our area. I’ve read Mr. Walker’s illiterate rants and can say without hesitation that they fail to qualify as an art or a craft.

    Perhaps the Woman’s Club can resolve the issue by simply allowing an English teacher to evaluate the work of any writer who wishes to sell their wares and reject anything that doesn’t meet third grade standards of spelling, sentence structure and literacy. Mr. Walker would fail and we would be spared the need to debate this issue every time he tries to pass off his illusions as historical fact.

  3. Ray,

    Everyone has a right to their own opinion. Indeed that makes for this crazy beautiful mysterious stew of a human race we have. And enough with the left wing right wing crap. Please note that in any of my writings throughout this debate I have never called anyone anything.

    I will state what I think is right or wrong and that is my opinion. Like Rick Parrish said, Walker has many other channels to market his wares and like many of us have said, we don’t feel the High School/Crafts Fair is the best place.

    I assure you, you will not find a booth up there representing pro-life/pro-abortion. Or any other touchy or controversial topic. You will find alot of teddy bears, pottery, photos, crocheted toilet paper covers, baked goods and quilts. Get the picture? This is NOT THE PROPER VENUE FOR A BOOK THAT IS CONTROVERSIAL AT BEST AND HURTFUL AT WORST.

  4. If there is so much outrage in Floyd over this so called “racist” book, why did Mr. Walker have so much suport this year? His sales went up this year from what I understand. I would guess that Mr. Walker is glad for all the free advertisment he is receiving.

  5. You are no doubt basing the claims of increased sales and support on Mr. Walker’s claims. He is a proven liar. He stated publicly on this web site that he would not attend the arts and crafts fair is just one person could find just one error in his book. Several were found and exposed here yet he failed to keep his word.

    He claims to be a “best selling author” yet none of his books have ever been listed on any best seller lists.

    The outrage was present here on this web site by the many county residents who expressed their disgust over his presence at the fair. We in Floyd County don’t put much stock in liars.

  6. I have read only Walker’s “Hunter’s Fiery Raid Through Virginia Valleys”, and I found it informative and unracist. This alone shows that his entire works cannot be discounted if they fill a research gap.

    There are too few histories written that do not disproportionately condemn the South over slavery. This creates a skewed, divisive view of the world. I say let Walker speak under 1st Amendment, and then let us individually decide the merit of his individual works.

    I also don’t see the relevance of anyone’s relationship with the Sons of Confederate Veterans and this issue. The SCV is a heritage group whose goal is the commemoration of American sacrifice. I have never found racism in their doctrines, despite “scandals” created by the biased Southern Poverty Law Center.

  7. Let him excercise his 1st amendment right to sell poorly written racist “literature” somewhere other than the grounds of Floyd High School (or any taxpayer supported public property). It could also be argued that the term “research” is loosely applied in this case. I have read “The Truth About Slavery” from cover to cover. The writing alone is reason enough to remove it from public school property; the racist propaganda it contains is even worse. According to the policy manual posted on the Floyd Public Schools web site, this is in direct violation of district policy.

  8. Comments to the effect of constraining Walker’s channels is effectively censorship and violates Amendment #1 of the US Constitution. Don’t agree with his view? Don’t go, and don’t buy his books. Or do go and debate what your issues are with his work. Fortunately, this is America, not N. Korea.

    On a parallel, while a student at UNC, I remember a group inviting Louis Farrakhan to speak. I searched for universities where he has spoken and Syracuse, Univ. of WI, Dillard Univ., and Clark Atlanta come up. His aides or leaders have spoken at others such as City Univ. of NY. He has also spoken in civic centers in Philadelphia, and more.

    Recently, Columbia Univ. hosted Iran’s Ahamadinejad. Duke Univ. invited terrorist Laura Whitehorn in 2003. The list goes on and on. Intelligence will reveal the truth and thus the merits of the speaker.

  9. We just want to be able to attend an Arts and Crafts Festival without being offended by racist garbage. If a community arts and crafts festival in a public school building was used as a venue for an all out first amendment free-for-all, the citizens of Floyd County would shut it down in the first thirty minutes. Furthermore, in every community in which I’ve lived , primary and secondary public school buildings have never been considered venues for the free excercise of the first amendment. At that rate, you would have porno vending machines in the hallways for fear of being sued by the publishers. The last time I checked it was legal to restrict activities on school property and it is supposed to be restricted in regard to racist material on Floyd County School property.

    In answer to your contention that this would violate the first amendment, I would remind you that the sponsor of the arts and crafts festival is a private club. A quote from the web site usconstitution.net under the category “things that are not in the constitution” should clarify this point:

    The Constitution does protect the freedom of speech of every citizen, and even of non-citizens — but only from restriction by the Congress (and, by virtue of the 14th Amendment, by state legislatures, too). There are plenty of other places where you could speak but where speech can and is suppressed. For example, freedom of speech can be and often is restricted in a work place, for example: employers can restrict your right to speak in the work place about politics, about religion, about legal issues, even about Desperate Housewives. The same restrictions that apply to the government do not apply to private persons, employers, or establishments. For another example, the government could not prohibit the sale of any newspaper lest it breech the freedom of the press. No newsstand, however, must carry every paper against its owners’ wishes.

    As far as debate goes, the last people that tried to debate Mr. Walker were surrounded by his very loud “entourage” (sporting confederate flag buttons; so much for the “heritage not hate” argument) when they attempted to ask the “author” some very simple but admittedly pointed questions about his book. The result of the disturbance caused by his “goons”? The people wishing to ask questions of Mr. Walker were escorted from the public event at Floyd High School by the Sheriff’s department. In the same vein, Walker refuses to honor his “pledge” that he would stay away if anyone found errors in his book and he claims he “doesn’t have time” to read some of the legitimate resources that were suggested to him.

    So if I understand your post correctly, you believe that we should apply the same standards of allowable behavior and programming to Floyd High School property as those used at universities? You may want to take that up with the school board and the parents of the students. Meanwhile, those of us who wish to eliminate racism and other forms of bigotry in our communities will do what we can to see that the school board enforces its own policies. If you have a problem with the school board’s policy against racist material on school property you have every right bring your concern before the board– we will definitely bring ours. Just be aware that you may run up against some of the more recent amendments to the constitution and the judicial interpretations thereof.

  10. I’m still confused about some of this information. I’m hearing that Walker shouldn’t speak at publicly funded events. Next, I’m told that the venue in question is private? It should be easy to know which it is.

    Next, I’m told that Walker’s speech here is not protected under the Constitution, but then, I’m told that an attorney would sue if he were banned. Clearly, if Walker had no case, then there would be no merit to the alleged attorney’s threat. What am I missing?

    As far as preventing university-level issues to surface in high school seems to offend the estimation of students intelligence and may be perpetuating an unrealistic, insular view of the world at the students expense. Clearly, there are boundaries to behavior to serve the interests of education. But the whole evolution vs creationism issue comes to mind when this type of control is overly applied.

  11. I understand your confusion; there are lot of posts and it’s difficult to arrange the material in an easy to understand structure due to the “blog” format. Also, since it is a blog, these are peoples opinions and some may be more “informed” than others. I have spoken to several of the folks involved as well as legal experts and civil rights activists in an attempt to make up for my lack of first-hand knowledge. Each of these are key pieces to the puzzle. I will try to explain.

    1. Walker is selling one particular book that many people have agreed is racist and offensive to citizens of Floyd County. When concern was expressed, he most recently brought ONLY that book to the arts and crafts festival. Nice guy.

    2. The event is held on public school property in a public school building. Racist literature is prohibited by school district policy on public school property.

    3. The facility is rented or loaned to a private club, the Floyd County Woman’s Club, the sponsor of the event which due to this status is free to turn away any vendor it chooses without explanation.

    4. The Woman’s Club, after a good bit of deliberation, has voted to allow Mr. Walker to return for fear of being sued. At least one legal expert has stated that this would fail on a constitutional level for reasons previously stated. The Woman’s Club would still have to bear the cost of defending itself. Anyone can sue you for anything and you will still be out the cost of your defense unless you counter-sue, which may or may not be successful.

    5. You are entitled to your opinion about the degree to which high school students can be exposed to adult topics and literature. I must say though that the idea of subjecting kids to racial prejudice and discrimination in order to somehow “condition” them to the real world strikes me as a bad idea. We’re trying to eliminate racism, not help people become accustomed to it! The idea of having racist books claiming to be “truth” sold in a setting that seemingly legitimizes the author’s views is even more offensive. In the end, it is the consensus of the community that determines what is appropriate in the schools (within the bounds of the law). In this case, the school district already has a policy against racist material on school property. The community has spoken. We only need to get them to enforce it.

  12. “many people have agreed is racist and offensive to citizens of Floyd County.”

    How many as a percentage?

    Item #3 supersedes item #2. The decision is the club’s.

    Fear of being sued makes no sense unless there was a contractual agreement between Walker and the club. The court would easily award court fees to the club if the facts are as you state.

    “”condition” them to the real world strikes me as a bad idea.”

    Oh yes, let’s never let them taste the real world because that would only make them that more able to deal with it. I understand the instinct to shelter, but who is best served in the end?

  13. Let me summarize what I understand you to be saying:

    The rightness or wrongness of racism should be based on the majority opinion.

    The school board (officials charged with representing the community’s interests) do not have the right to determine whether or not racist ideas are promoted on school property.

    Either a) frivolous lawsuits do not occur or b) if they do, the court will make sure the victims are compensated for their loss.

    It’s okay or even desirable for non-white youth to be called the “n-word” on the school bus, to have to avoid a certain hallway at the high school affectionately known as “redneck alley” or to know that there is a certain section of the school parking lot where they are not welcome, all because it will help prepare them for the “real” world.

    Sorry, I can’t buy any of that. In my world, the wrongness of racism is absolute. There is no circumstance under which it is beneficial, and the fact that it does exist in the world that I live in is a challenge to be met without compromise. If you truly believe otherwise (I have considered that you may enjoy debate for the sport of it), we really don’t have much to talk about.

    Peace

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